“Stand-up in its worst form is distilled ignorance and bigotry. In its best form, it’s a palatable form of philosophy,” fourth-year literature major and amateur stand-up comic William Buescher said as he took a sip from a cold beer last Monday, ironically one of the coldest nights in recent Isla Vista memory.
It’s evident that Isla Vista’s subculture of aspiring comedians has definitely come up with an effective way of fighting “the Monday blahs.” Despite the biting wind and uncharacteristically rainy air, a small group of constituents met at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13 at Javan’s for a weekly open mic dedicated to stand-up comedy.
The event is a product of Maximilian Lockwood, who, together with the group Laughology, has sought to provide performing outlets for local comics who were not able to get into Laughology’s surprisingly competitive lineup. The result is a fairly consistent collection of (mostly male) comics who return each week in order to get what every performer needs most: practice with a live audience.
“People definitely bomb sometimes,” Buescher admitted as he waited for his timeslot to arrive. “You have to make sure the audience gives a shit about what you want to say — you gotta have an authorial trust in yourself. People bomb when they don’t stand up there like they belong there.”
That aspect of authorial trust may be just as important as the jokes themselves during a stand-up set. From George Carlin to Dave Chappelle, stand-up legends have a long history of addressing shocking or heavy topics while somehow managing to not offend or bore audiences. In fact, Carlin (Buescher rather effusively told me) had a set that addressed post-traumatic stress disorder while referencing George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language; if he was able to make something like that funny, there must be something deeper here than the ability to pull off a good knock-knock joke.
According to Buescher, however, the comedic content present at Javan’s does not get too intellectual.
“There’s a lot of, ‘I’m single. I like to masturbate. I’m a gross guy. I need to understand the specifics about why I’m gross,’” Buescher said when describing the humor.
Although the first performance I saw was, in fact, a wonderfully raunchy but rather short set by Delanie Fischer, fourth-year religious studies major and the only female in the group, this generalization seems to be fairly accurate. While this may be a testament to the event’s “amateur-ness,” it is also representative of a deeper theme in the stand-up genre: a total revealing of the self.
“Stand-up takes something painful and then takes distance from it. Carol Burnett said that ‘Comedy is tragedy plus time.’ That’s become my personal theory on it,” Buescher said.
Pushing back his first year of college to perform improv with the ComedySportz Los Angeles College Team, Buescher has studied and performed improv since the ripe age of 11. However, it took him until last year to realize that stand-up was his true passion.
For now, opportunities like those at Javan’s are a must. As with any performance-oriented career, one’s future relies on networking. In other words, you’ve got to rub elbows with the right people in order to get yourself on the right stage.
Though I did not learn every performer’s backstory that night, it was obvious to me after I had sat back and enjoyed the set that these people have something funny to say. I encourage you to come and listen — or, even better, come and say it yourself.
Open Mic Comedy Nights at Javan’s start at 7 p.m. every Monday. The only requirement is an open mind and a flair for the politically incorrect.